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Childhood Immunizations

The importance of vaccines

Vaccines are key to preventing disease. Vaccines benefit both the people who get them and the vulnerable, unvaccinated people around them. That's because the infection can no longer spread through the community if most people are immunized. Plus, vaccines reduce the number of deaths and disability from infections like measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox.

Children get most of the vaccinations. But adults also need to be sure they are already immune to certain infections and stay up-to-date on certain vaccines, including varicella, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), shingles, and the flu. Childhood illnesses, such as mumps, measles, and chickenpox, can cause serious problems in adults. 

About guidelines for routine childhood vaccines

Many childhood diseases can now be prevented by following these guidelines for vaccines:

  • Meningococcal vaccine. It protects against meningococcal disease.

  • Hep B vaccine. It protects against hepatitis B.

  • Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). It protects against polio.

  • DTaP vaccine. It protects against diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough).

  • Hib vaccine. It protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b, which causes spinal meningitis and other serious infections.

  • MMR vaccine. It protects against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles).

  • Pneumococcal vaccine/PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine). It protects against pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis.

  • Varicella vaccine. It protects against chickenpox.

  • Rotavirus (RV) vaccine. It protects against severe vomiting and diarrhea caused by rotavirus.

  • Hep A vaccine. It protects against hepatitis A.

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. It protects against HPV, which is linked to cervical cancer and other cancers. 

  • Seasonal influenza vaccine. It protects against different flu viruses.

A child's first vaccination is given at birth. Vaccines are scheduled throughout childhood. Many start within the first few months of life. By following a regular schedule and making sure your child is immunized at the right time, you are ensuring the best defense against dangerous childhood diseases.

Reactions to vaccines

As with any medicine, vaccines may cause reactions. They often may cause a sore arm or low-grade fever. Serious reactions are rare. But they can happen. Your child's healthcare provider or nurse may discuss these with you before giving the shots. The risks for getting the diseases the shots protect against are higher than the risks for having a reaction to the vaccine.

You can help ease these mild reactions in children:

  • Fussiness. Children may need extra love and care after getting immunized. The shots that keep them from getting serious diseases can also cause discomfort for a while. Children may experience fussiness, fever, and pain at the injection site, after they have been immunized.

  • Fever. Do not give aspirin . You may want to give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce pain and fever, as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Also:

    • Give your child plenty to drink.

    • Clothe your child lightly. Do not cover or wrap your child tightly.

    • Sponge your child in a few inches of lukewarm (not cold) bath water.

  • Swelling or pain.Do not give aspirin. You may want to give your child acetaminophen to reduce pain and fever, as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Apply a clean, cool washcloth over the sore area as needed for comfort.

Aspirin and the risk for Reye syndrome in children 

Aspirin should not be given to children or teenagers because of the risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but potentially fatal disease. Pediatricians and other healthcare providers recommend that aspirin not be used to treat any fever in children.

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if these more serious symptoms occur:

  • Your child has large area of redness and swelling around the area where the injection was given. The skin area may be warm to the touch and very tender. There may also be red streaks coming from the initial site of the injection.

  • Your child has a high fever.

  • Your child is pale or limp.

  • Your child has been crying nonstop.

  • Your child has a strange cry that is not normal (a high-pitched cry).

  • Your child's body is shaking, twitching, or jerking.

Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Pat F Bass MD MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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